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Disclaimer: In this episode we are going to cover some sensitive topics from race relations to social justice and everything in-between. Please use your discretion when listening, especially if you have young children present or if you’re listening in the company of others.
About Courtney Stewart:
Founder & CEO of LipRevoltThrough LipRevolt, Courtney encourages people to fight for what they believe in and to speak up for others. LipRevolt donates 10% of sales to organizations that support women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBTQ rights. In addition to LipRevolt, Courtney has worked in public service for over six years. She graduated with a BA in Political Science from Spelman College in 2013 and earned an MS in Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy from American University in 2016. LipRevolt has been featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Popsugar.
0:00 – Introduction
1:55 – Courtney’s path of activism
5:08 – How LipRevolt started and its mission that goes beyond cosmetics
16:53 – Courtney’s lessons and takeaways in establishing LipRevolt
21:14 – Charities, civil rights movement, and unfair justice
26:32 – LipRevolt five years from now
29:15 – Building a more equal world
33:41 – Be you
36:14 – Conclusion
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Find Your Voice And BE YOU With Liprevolt! With Courtney Stewart, CEO And Founder Of Liprevolt
In this episode, we are going to cover some sensitive topics from race relations to social justice and everything in between. Please use your discretion when reading, especially if you have young children present or if you’re listening in the company of others. Now, I’ve been looking forward to this interview for some time as I first discovered the founder and her incredible story when listening to Carolyn Kiel’s Beyond 6 Seconds.
Joining me is Courtney Stewart. She is the Founder and CEO of LipRevolt, a cosmetic brand specializing in lipstick that promotes social activism. Through LipRevolt, Courtney encourages people to fight for what they believe in and to speak up for others. LipRevolt donates 10% of sales to organizations that support women’s rights, civil rights and LGBTQ rights.
In addition to LipRevolt, Courtney has worked in public service for a few years. She graduated with a BA in Political Science from Spelman College in 2013 and earned an MS in Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy from American University in 2016. LipRevolt has been featured in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and PopSugar. Courtney, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
Before we get started, I would love to hear about your activistic path. Was there a specific incident that propelled you into action?
I think I’ve always wanted to be someone of action and someone who is getting things done but I will say, my life experiences have played a role in the person I am and the things that I want to see in the world. Growing up, I didn’t know my biological parents. I was adopted at about age three and throughout that adoption, my adopted mother was always very abusive. She and her boyfriend sexually and emotionally abused me. It broke me down. At that point in my life, I didn’t know what to do. I felt very discouraged. My self-esteem suffered greatly. It was a very hard point in my life.
Take your time to learn. There are so many different pieces when it comes to running a business, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
When I finally went into foster care, I jumped around for a little bit but once I finally found my forever foster family, I grew into my own. I found my voice. It made me want to help others find their voice and to live who they are and to be who they want to be. I’ll say that my life’s story triggered that. I’ve never looked back since. I will say, going to college and attending Spelman College as well is one of those experiences that I had that told me I had a choice to change the world. I took that choice seriously.
Having to go through all of that at a young age, at any age, is terrible to hear. I’ve looked at statistics of how many women are abused. I’m hard-pressed to find a single woman in my community that hasn’t had some issue of either being intimidated or assaulted or even flat out raped. It’s something that is endemic in a society and culture whenever there seem to be humans around, sadly.
It shouldn’t be that way. I think that we need to start holding people accountable for their actions. People need to start respecting others a bit more because the fact that you said that you don’t know a single person within your circle who hasn’t had an experience only shows how much change needs to happen in the world.
I think back to even being a young teen that’s coming into yourself and barely understanding what’s happening to your body. People suddenly react to you much differently and you’re being catcalled walking down the street by grown men that are double your age. There’s a lot of inappropriate action that we’re all exposed to as we go through that. It’s a very complicated thing to work through. Now, when you talk about what you’re doing with the company you’re building, I would like to hear you speak from the heart about how you envisioned this company and what you’re working to do with it because even a name like LipRevolt is very brave. It’s audacious. It’s got in the brand name itself. I feel like it’s the resistance.
I want to say that it was very purposeful. Me, telling my story previously. I want to say that faith and my family helped me get through those times but I think also putting on lipstick helped me out a little bit as well. I’m sure if you will wear lipstick, your audience may wear lipstick. They know how it feels to put on that lipstick or some makeup and walk out of the house and feel like your whole mentality has changed. You feel beautiful, capable and invincible. You feel like you can take control of any situation and you can but society leads you to believe differently and that’s the problem. I wanted to create something where the people that I support, the women and the marginalized communities, all of these different groups if they want to wear lipstick, can feel empowered and inspired.
It caused me to feel that way so I’m sure it will cause someone else to feel that way. I remember back when I first thought about the idea of LipRevolt, it was in 2018. It was right at the height of the #MeToo Movement. I was like, “There are so many other women who have been through this situation. I’m not alone.” I thought back to my own experiences and how much healing I had to do and how much trauma I had. I wanted to develop something that would help people who have been through that heal and to regain their strength and make sure that they have a voice because it’s so important. It’s incidents like these that make you feel that you don’t have power or that you don’t have a voice.
Do you look at LipRevolt in a way as taking back that power and showing this face with pride to the world?
I asked you to send me some of this beautiful lipstick. It’s this beautiful black on an envelope with LipRevolt written in a hot pink script. I love how bold it is. I’m going to open it now. I purposefully did not wear lipstick as we started this. I am typically a lipstick wearer because it helps me feel more confident. I want to show people what I’ve got here. There’s this postcard. It’s beautiful. It says, “Beautiful changemaker. We started this brand not only to accentuate your already gorgeous features but also to have a call to action. Fight for what you believe in and what you deserve. Whether you’re fighting to break the glass ceiling, fighting against sexual abuse, fighting for civil rights or fighting for basic respect. We want you to know that we are fighting with you. When you apply your new LipRevolt lipstick, remember that it is more than the only lip color. It’s change. LipRevolt.”
That’s beautiful and I love the postcard. It looks like graffiti. There are some fist pumps going on and the packaging itself. This is not a beauty show. I know all these people on YouTube that spend time putting on their makeup and they get far more dolled up than I ever do. I think anyone who knows me, it’s real basic. Some mascara, a little eyeliner maybe and a little blush.
It’s made for people who wear a lot of makeup and for people who don’t. Lipstick is one of those things that you don’t need to have a full face to wear.
Here I have Trailblaze and Insurgent. I think I’m going to go with Insurgent. This is the darker of the two. It’s almost purple. I love that. Why don’t you tell me about the naming of each of these?
I wanted each name to be very bold. I wanted you to feel a part of a community of people fighting for change, of people who weren’t going to take no or you can’t do it as an answer. I wanted you to be able to put on the lipstick and walk into your boardroom and give your presentation with no hesitation and no doubt in your mind that you deserve to be there. All of the names somewhat fit the bill like Trailblaze. Sometimes you got to cause an uproar. Sometimes you got to be a rebel and I wanted to highlight all of those things. It looks great on you.
I tend to go dark especially when I’m going on out. I like to wear black a lot. I like to wear dark and bright colors but it feels divine too. I know you don’t necessarily have a background in cosmetics. You’ve got a background that includes having an MS and a subject that’s difficult to talk about terrorism and all this other stuff.
Make sure the products you are creating are going to represent you positively.
It can be intimidating.
Yet now you’ve formulated a lipstick line and you’re donating the proceeds to these two amazing ventures. I’d like you to talk about what it took to create this because it’s not something that happened overnight.
I didn’t have a background in cosmetics or consumer products as a seller but I think one of the most important things that I had was I had a background in cosmetics as a user, as a consumer. I can remember not having a foundation that matched my skin tone. I know that there’s a lack of social responsibility amongst beauty brands. There is a lack of people of color sitting in leadership at a lot of big beauty companies. Taking what I know as a consumer and as a lover of makeup, I can take all of those things and produce a great product.
There’s no lack of my products and develop the type of brand that I wish I saw. I want to fill that gap for people. It was very difficult because like you said, I only had the experience as a consumer. I didn’t know where to go and find a manufacturer. I didn’t know how much money it took. I had no know-how and I had to find it, either through Google. I always claimed Google is my best friend.
Google, Wikipedia and a couple of others.
Whether it be through different Facebook groups I’ve utilized, I know the SpelHouse Small Business Alliance is one of those groups that I’ve been able to rely on since I’ve started my business to see what others are doing in their business and to help grow. I think that it’s important not to be stopped because you don’t necessarily have a background in something. It should be more of a reason to do so if you know that you can fill a gap or if you know that someone isn’t being served. My brand is trying its best. I’m trying my best to do so.
You’re building something that can have legs. I could foresee this product being on the shelf in Sephora at some point or in Ulta in the future. These are things that I’m sure you’re going to continue pursuing, even as now you’re working in the direct consumer sphere. You mentioned getting this off the ground and started in 2018. It took a couple of years to get to a place where you felt confident. You had a product you could release. I think you launched this fall. Is that correct?
I launched the right at the end of August, which was August 26th. It happens to be Women’s Equality Day. It was very intentional. I like to say that I’ve been very intentional about everything with the brands. It was August 26th, 2020 right in the middle of the pandemic.
It’s a challenging time to launch any brand.
Also a lipstick when it’s being covered by a mask.
However, how many Zoom calls are we all on? There’s even a feature now in Zoom where you can turn on makeup and it makes your lips look darker. I don’t know how I feel about that. It looked weird. I tried it out like playing around for a little bit but it’s not the same. I will tell you that putting digital lipstick on by clicking a Zoom button is not empowering. What you’re talking about is something that is empowering.
I’ve seen what you’re saying and even going with putting the makeup from Zoom on, it’s something about accentuating your lips that I wanted to have. It’s called LipRevolt for a reason. When you think of your lips, I always think of my lips as associated with my mouth. When I associate with my mouth, I think of what comes out of it and it’s my voice. There’s so much power in a voice and it can literally change the world. Why not use it to revolve and to tear down misogyny and to fight against sexual abuse or anything else that you don’t agree with or isn’t right. I strongly believe that by accentuating it and putting something on it, you, yourself are acknowledging your power.
Now I will say, I think one of my first posts on social media as I got this show started, was, “I have a voice and I’m going to use it to spread more social good.” I feel like your lipstick matches perfectly with what my mission is here if you had the ability to look back at 2018 and connect with yourself then, what would you say to yourself? What learnings would you pass on given what you’ve accomplished thus far and all the work you had to put in?
I would say, take your time to learn. There are so many different pieces when it comes to running a business and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Deciding is step one. You decide you’re going to do something and you have to spend time and research. Nobody’s paying you for that time. You might have to spend a little bit of money to do a prototype depending on what it is you’re doing.
A lot of it because there are manufacturers out there that are not equal to others. That was something that I had to find out along the way. You have to test everything. Don’t take people at face value. You need to test it and you need to make sure that the product you are creating is going to represent you positively. It took me a long time to do that and it costs a lot of money.
I’m sure more than you anticipated.
Much more than I anticipated but I’m happy that I went through those manufacturers so that I can find the perfect formula for what I wanted and what I needed for LipRevolt.
You can’t sacrifice quality if it’s going to be a game-changing brand to which this absolutely is.
I couldn’t do it. I would also tell myself to take my time and be kind to myself because I feel like I’d beat myself down initially when I was first trying to start in 2018. I told you I launched on August 26th, 2020 so throughout that time, I was like, “Why can’t I do it? What is going on here where I’m not finding the answer?” I think it’s important for others out there who are trying to start a brand or trying to launch a business or to do anything. Be kind to yourself because everything takes time. That’s what I would tell myself.
Be kind to yourself when trying to achieve something. Everything takes time.
I’m studying for my MBA and a common theme that comes up and something that business people tend to throw around is it takes twice as long and double the money where you would anticipate spending. It’s pretty often true. I think there are seldom cases where suddenly you’re able to lift off with nothing but this is not something like making a cupcake and putting it out there. Even in the case of that earlier episode where I featured Violet Anna Lieby and her business, The Giving Cake. It’s another pay-it-forward business. She had to go through months of iterations and figuring out how to make the frosting the right color and so the flowers all looked perfect. It was something that could be sellable, that would taste great, that would be consistent, that she felt like she could put her seal on. I think that’s with anything.
Even something as simple as a baked good that you might make in your own kitchen, not even yet at the commercial stage, there’s still a lot of work that goes behind it. Sometimes that’s what keeps people from acting and doing something that they’re passionate about. The advice I give time and again is to get started. Just try because you’ll never know until you start the work if it’s something that could be your calling or your passion. The thing that makes you happy, makes you feel like you are doing the good, you are giving back and that gets you to wake up with a spring in your step beyond feeling like you’re in a forever grind.
I wanted to talk for a bit about some of the charities that you’re working with. I know that you’ve stated and even your website says, “If there’s a charity that you like in your community, tell us about it.” You’re always constantly seeking updates to that to stay off the moment and make sure that you’re giving resources to charities that are doing good work. Talk a little bit about how you’ve selected them in the work you’re doing presently.
Every month, I choose about five to six different nonprofits to give funds to. I choose those brands because of what they’re there for. If it’s a nonprofit that is supporting women, gender equality, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, I’m all for it but the main nonprofits that I want to help are the mom-and-pops of nonprofits who may not get a lot of funding federally, who when they get the money they trickle it down to the people who need it.
Typically, I do change them but one, in particular, is very close to my heart. I’ve had it for quite a few months, may I say. It’s The New Georgia Project. They do a number of different things, whether it be making sure that there’s no voter disenfranchisement, which is super important. It’s very important, as you could see because Georgia turned blue and I’m proud to say that The New Georgia Project is a part of that but also because the money that I put towards it is going towards a family member as well. They are supporting a few different cases here in Georgia. One of which is a stand your ground case. It deals with a family member of mine, a cousin who was in South Georgia. He has been waiting on a decision for bail or bond for several months. He’s not getting justice.
The reality of the story you tell sounds like something that would have come out of the pre-civil rights movement, like something in the early ‘60s or even into the ‘70s.
That type of stuff still happens.
It’s been getting worse.
I don’t know if it’s getting worse. I think we see it more and we hear about it more. It’s important that we talk about it more because like with my cousin who is still waiting for a decision, for a bond, it’s been several months waiting for court dates. For months, it seems like they’re dragging it out as much as possible because of the color of his skin and not because of the law.
That’s unfortunate. The reality for so many people is if they don’t have funds for a lawyer that’s going to help them get through then they get relegated to the worst essential representation. That representation then is not able to keep moving things forward. I’ve seen court cases where it seems like the DA is forever on vacation so the date keeps getting pushed. “Someone from the court office isn’t available,” so the judge keeps kicking the can down the road.
A seemingly simple case that could be heard essentially waits for one, two or even three years. Meanwhile, your cousin is trapped behind bars, serving time for something that he would be willing to face the court with now. Losing time, you don’t know what will end up happening, how a jury might see things, what would be the end result. It’s almost like the pain of waiting is so vast and it feels like there’s no justice. What are the repercussions that the other people are going to have?
I want to take this even further outside of feelings. Where is justice?
For somebody to be threatened, for you to hear about stories like Ahmaud Arbery, to see that these injustices continued to happen and the system seems like it’s imbalanced and stacked against those who don’t have resources. Often those who have a different tint to their skin are not the future we should seek to build. It’s everything we should fight against. I applaud you for standing up with LipRevolt to do that. I would like to know and this is maybe on a more positive note.
Let’s go fast forward. If we were to take where we are now, fast forward five years from now. Five years may sound like a time but that’s often what it takes to build a brand and to get a movement going. Five years down the road from now, we will be on the other side of another election and who knows, we might have a female, a woman or a person of color in The White House possibly going from the second seat to the first seat. There could be a lot of incredible change that occurs if we are able to keep the momentum going. Let’s think about that and fast forward five years, what is the change that you will have created with LipRevolt?
It’s hard to imagine what five years in the future would look like. I could be cheesy and say, “There’s going to be world peace and everything else.” Realistically, with the impact that LipRevolt has and could have, I’d like to see less people on the streets. I’d like to see the people who are supported through the money that I give to these nonprofits be able to succeed. I love for LipRevolt and my story to inspire someone else to start their own business. My business aspirations, I’d love to see LipRevolt in Sephora. I love to see them in Ulta. I love to see them in a few other marketplaces. I love to see a president that is a woman or a person of color or a Black woman because it’s so important to see someone who looks like you in such a high office. Someone who looks like you have the ability to be in rooms where real change can happen. I think that is the goal and I’d love to see it. I hope that LipRevolt can help in some way.
Be you. Your existence and authenticity are within and of itself revolutionary. Take hold of it, fight for it, and live.
Maybe it will become the lipstick of choice for our second in command.
It could be.
“Come on, Kamala, it’s time.” Let’s assume our audience is armed with their LipRevolts. They can go to your website and get a couple of colors to choose from. I can’t remember what you call the black color. I want to get some of that too.
I’m feeling dissident now. That is such a perfect word. Let’s assume that our audience has their LipRevolt already. What more can they do to be the change we’re all working so hard to create? What advice would you give them?
I think buy more lipstick. On another note, I give a portion of the profits to these nonprofits. Support them on your own if you don’t have the funds to necessarily support them, volunteer. It is hard during COVID to do so but there are things that you can do virtually. More so, keeping the change in your circle but outside. Let me explain so that it makes a little bit more sense. People in places of privilege need to use that privilege for the better. If you have family members or friends who don’t acknowledge what’s going on in the world, who choose to remain out of it, you should charge yourself with telling them to do more. You also need to use your voice to do so.
We need to start supporting the change with your actions, with your voice and giving back to these nonprofits with your wallet. Supporting businesses from people of color, from Black businesses. It’s time to work for a more equal world. It’s going to take everyone. Not everyone may be ready to do so but if they’re in your circle, they may be more willing to hear about it because they know who you are.
We recorded an episode a bit ago with Genevieve Smith. She champions this phrase, “Nothing is neutral.” She talks about how to have those difficult conversations. Sometimes it may not be the appropriate moment. If you’re super fired up and angry, is that the right moment to talk to somebody who’s a little resistant? Maybe not but figuring out a way to open a subject with somebody who is a little resistant is something that is commendable.
I think we’ve all had experienced over the course of the last couple of years where people in our family or in our community took a stance that was so different from our own that we ended up alienated from them in some way. It’s important if we’re all going to push for change that we try to bridge some of those gaps, find common ground and remind one another that we have more in common than we sometimes think.
The goal is alienation. It’s not. It’s for everyone to be on an equal playing ground. I think when people recognize that and start to notice that no one race is trying to take over. No one is trying to be on top or anything like that. What people want is equality.
The reality is there’s enough for everybody if we can get over feeling like we have to be in this constant competition. As it stands, I think the work that you’re doing is so important. Giving rise to those voices, asking people to also use theirs. This is how we will create and keep change going. This is how we can build a better future for everybody. It’s not socialism to have healthcare. It’s not socialism to not be living on the streets. These are humanitarian efforts. This is ensuring that people have food in their bellies and a roof over their heads. We can work towards more equality but we have to push these conversations forward.
I would like to snapshot for everyone a quick summary of what it is that you’ve done so far. In the midst of a pandemic while working full-time, Courtney Stewart, you created a cosmetic brand that caters to individuals who identify as women or who are gender non-conforming that honors women of all stripes and walks of life. Everybody that represents their passion for standing up and being counted when it matters. While you’re working to fight for social justice and racial equality, we’re all getting started. The message I’m getting from all of this is pretty simple and clear. We can all help. I want to know from you. If you had a few closing words to share with our audience, you have the floor. Say what you like.
I think my last message I would direct to my audience, those who may be reading on your channel, on your show, be you. Be you because your existence and your authenticity are within and of itself revolutionary. Take hold of it, fight for it and live. Tell your story when you’re ready. If you’re chasing after a dream, reach it but when you do, make sure you help someone else in your community that you come from to make their dream. I’m going to leave you all with that.
Courtney, thank you for proving a point for all of us that action can be as beautiful and even fun and fierce as your lipsticks. They’re beautiful. I feel great too. It’s not tacky. My lips don’t feel dry. That’s beautiful.
It’s very lightweight.
It’s fantastic. Thank you so much for your commitments, your hard work and for coming on this show to talk about it all. I appreciate and love what you’re doing.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
Go to CareMoreBeBetter.com and you’ll find an Action Page dedicated to causes and companies we encourage you to support. I invite all of you to join the conversation and be a part of the community we’re building with LipRevolt and with Care More Be Better. You can follow Care More Be Better on social spaces or send us an email at CareMoreBeBetter.com. That address is Hello@CareMoreBeBetter.com.
Remember, this show is not an infomercial. It’s not backed by the people or the companies we feature. Our purpose is to simply put more good into the world, much like what LipRevolt is doing. If you find what we’re doing as great and you’d like to support it, share it with your friends or you can even donate to support the cause. Visit CareMoreBeBetter.com and click the Donate button. Thank you, audience, for being a part of this show and this community because together we can do so much more.
- #MeToo Movement
SpelHouse Small Business Alliance – Facebook group
- Violet Anna Lieby – previous episode
- The New Georgia Project
- Genevieve Smith – previous episode
- Action Page